The Queensland Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 has been amended by the Heavy Vehicle Speed Compliance Act with the insertion of a new Chapter 5D in the Act. The new provisions are effective from 1 July 2010 and adopt national reforms in this area, which have been developed after extensive consultation with various transport industry stakeholders.
The new section 163AA states that:
The main purpose of this chapter is to improve road safety and compliance with road safety laws by imposing responsibility for speeding by heavy vehicles on persons whose business activities influence the conduct of the drivers of heavy vehicles.
The legislation, while encouraging drivers to remain speed compliant, acknowledges that drivers are not the only ones responsible for this issue. The new law targets those in the chain of responsibility including employers, operators, prime contractors, schedulers, loading managers, consignors and consignees.
The main prohibition introduced is to ensure drivers are not asked to speed or enter into an agreement which has the effect of causing the driver to speed.
Further, all the parties in the chain of responsibility are required to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that their actions or processes do not end up causing the driver to speed. This reference to “reasonable steps” ties back to section 57D of the Act which remains unchanged by the new laws.
Section 57D provides the defence of “reasonable steps” will not be available to a person seeking to avoid liability if the relevant person had knowledge of the contravention by the driver or ought to have known about it and did not take reasonable steps to prevent the contravention, unless no steps could have been taken.
The Act only provides guidance as to what constitutes “reasonable steps” without being prescriptive. Essentially authorities will look at the business practices and culture in place at the time.
In terms of business practices, authorities will be assessing if there has been implementation of suitable risk assessment procedures regarding:
- realistic planning of trips (including contingency planning)
- document systems
- ways of monitoring and identifying risks.
The penalty for breach of the new law, by the chain of responsibility parties, ranges from a $300 penalty infringement notice to a maximum of an $8,000 fine. Drivers remain independently liable for the usual demerit points and penalty infringement notices that apply.
There are other amendments for certain post-1987 vehicles regarding speed limiting devices, that introduce a penalty for the driver and/or the person who permits the driver, to use a heavy vehicle where the equipment does not comply with Australian Design Rule 65 or Part 11 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management – Vehicle Standards and Safety) Regulations 1999.
According to Part 11, these requirements concerning speed limiter device compliance apply to:
- a bus (not a passenger bus or emergency or police vehicle) of gross vehicle mass over 14.5 tonne
- a prime mover (not 2-axle pre-July 1991 used for agricultural, horticultural or other primary production purposes) of gross vehicle mass over 15 tonne.
A defect notice will issue against the owner of the vehicle where the driver has been convicted of an offence which involves a driver exceeding 110km/hr.
Relevant fact sheets are available on: www.transport.qld.gov.au/speedcompliance
The bottom line is that if a driver of a heavy vehicle speeds, they will not be the only one liable for a penalty, but so too anyone else in the chain of responsibility or who has influenced the conduct of the driver as outlined in the legislation. Reviewing agreements and trip scheduling, risk management and other workplace practices and policies is essential to ensure that all reasonable steps are being taken to discourage the driver to speed.
If you’d like more information, please contact a member of our team on 07 3231 2444.